Dr. Dawg

The International Olympic Committee's sickening double standard

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Munich 11.jpg

Forty years ago, a gang of killers invaded the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany, site of the 1972 Olympics, and, when they were done, eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German police officer were dead.

Since that time, the International Olympic Committee has stoutly resisted any commemoration of this attack during the ceremonial pageantry of the Olympic Games. Even a minute of silence has been deemed “too political,” and once again, at the London Olympics, the IOC refused a request from many quarters to observe it.

Yet it wasn’t too political to have a moment of silence in 1996 during the closing ceremonies of the Atlanta summer games, to remember the victims of a terrorist bombing earlier at Centennial Olympic Park. It wasn’t too political to commemorate the victims of 9/11 at the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.

And during the opening ceremonies of these London Olympics, yet another commemoration was held. I am not enamoured of the source here by any means, but the point is nevertheless well made:

[I]n the Olympic stadium, the victims of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in the London subway in 2005 were commemorated as part of the opening ceremony. Granted, it was hard to catch; a photo montage was projected into the stadium during a lull in the prancing and acrobatics, but there was little narration to call it out. I didn’t even notice it, and had to be told about it afterward by others who had seen it.

It is jarring to think of passing references being made to the victims of terrorism, sort of as part of the entertainment, during an event-palooza dedicated to performance and revelry. The reason we usually have authorities solemnly asking for a moment of silence, at a carefully separated, showcased point in the proceedings, is that that’s what is appropriate for commemorating tragedy and sorrow.

But it was clearly important to the British planners to mention their dead from the 2005 terror attack in the opening ceremony. So they did it. For forty years, including this Olympics, no one has incorporated a commemoration of the 11 murdered Israeli athletes into an official Olympic ceremony. Yet Olympic authorities have been assiduous about commemorating others.

America’s NBC has come under fire for deliberately avoiding the 7/7 commemoration. Indeed, its scurrying away reminds me of the IOC, although, unlike the latter, its failure was ephemeral. And Al-Arabiya completely misses the point, dutifully adding up Israeli and Palestinian victims in the on-going Middle East conflict to argue against a minute of silence for the dead forty years ago.

But this isn’t, or shouldn’t be, about Israelis. It’s about Olympians. Why are some victims of atrocities, even outside the ambit of the games, worth more than others? Why should their country of origin matter? Isn’t something that stabbed deep into the heart of an actual Olympic games worth remembering? Is it “too political” for a gesture of solidarity with murdered fellow athletes and trainers to be shown?

Apparently so.

Yet, if we are to subscribe to the notion fostered by the IOC that the Olympics are above the fray, taking place in a universe of its own where mere geopolitics doesn’t obtrude, then the least we can ask for is consistency in that respect. Instead, we have anything but.

The last thing we can expect from the IOC, however, is honesty. The hulking, Olympic behemoth that it rides is itself a fabulously costly and grotesque lie, fake right down to a singing girl in Beijing, or the minute traces of gold to be found in their “gold” medals. Everything about the games is grossly commercial, and it’s all as political as it gets—including the stubborn refusal, against all norms of human decency, to observe a remembrance of one specific group of victims among many simply because they came from the wrong country.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on July 29, 2012 10:41 PM.

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